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Happy New Year from BooksfromScotland! If you're wondering what 2023 will have in store for you, then one thing we can guarantee and that is good reading! We kick off the year with books that highlight the classic and the iconic as well as explore how we make ourselves. There are some exciting debutants and familiar faces; what a great start to the year!

David Robinson contemplates televisual adaptation as he finds Don Paterson’s childhood memoir compelling and impressive.

 

Toy Fights: A Boyhood By Don Paterson Published by Faber

 

Sometimes I think how easy it must be to be a TV commissioning editor. Of course, you’ll have to read a few duff books – all those narcissistic memoirs offering little more than an expanded CV, all achievements underlined, all old battles rehashed and revenged, all doubt and despair discreetly tidied away. But every now and again, there’ll be books like Don Paterson’s Toy Fights, which play out in your head as you read them.

Maybe you’d want to change the title. You could call it The Young Poet, for example, because after all that’s what most people know about Paterson: that he has won every poetry award going for his own stuff and has spent decades writing about, editing and teaching everyone else’s. Then again, maybe not. Because by the time Toy Fights ends, with the 20-year-old Paterson leaving Dundee on the London train to try his luck as a jazz guitarist, there’s not even a hint that this is how his life will eventually pan out.

By that stage, though, Paterson has already done something that eludes most memoirists. He has taken the reader into the mind he had – or at least a convincing version of it – as a teenager. This is an uncomfortable place to be – particularly so when, as a 16-year-old, he was hospitalised after an acute schizophrenic episode. I have never read a better description of what Baudelaire called ‘the wind of the wing of madness’ – a feeling of having no centre, of not knowing who answered when he was spoken to, of having a mind occupied by vandalising strangers, while all the time convinced that an irretrievable dissolution of the self is just a misstep away.

The teenage Pate...

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Thank goodness January is cheered by the annual Burns celebrations. And as this wonderful picture book from the brilliant Itchy Coo demonstrates, you’re never too young to enjoy the Bard!

 

Rabbie’s Rhymes: Robert Burns For Wee Folk By James Robertson Published by Itchy Coo

 

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